I have carried a tile with me, a little bigger than the size of my palm. It had been blank before I lined some cobalt, vermillion, ocher or realgar, and emerald to make it a work of art. It seems to me one of the best from kids’ arts. For the hues I happened to choose for it are as classic as those favored by masters of Chinese watercolors, and the lines are as simple and neat as some of landscape drafts from Rembrandt.
I have carried it with me from my urban origin to New Zealand where I spent one and a half year, and finally took it back to the inland Elysium, Chengdu, where I choose to work. So many other objects come and go in my life hustle. They usually are lost in hectic shippings or broken by use and abuse. No small surprise when I was cued by the fact that my little piece of tile art had survived the metabolism of my belongings, of objects.
How did I make it?
Schools bid the urban young “go mingle with peasants, go experience rural area”. So they make secondary school students in the city go through this education session, that is to get educated by the rural, of around two weeks. I went through the session when I was 14, and it taught me to make rural art. At first the instructor had laid out the procedure of making tile art, we, a bunch of rats who had no idea of drawing anything, were commanded to craft our own version of the artistic design. Easy work: I just copied the pattern on the china pen baskets in the studio. The ancient pattern was transformed into nineteen heads of auspicious clouds floating and taking up two thirds of the tile square. Then I curtailed the pattern into a dozen skewed strikes and stacked them to symbolize a boulder, where a branching pine grows out of it. Yellow or brown for boulder, red for clouds, blue for pine trunk, green for pine needles. The rest was as milk white as the tile itself. Out of the furnace that gave the tile lasting sheen from glaze was this art of mine.
This was how I crafted my Ph.D thesis later. It turned out copying and transforming, with a bit of imagination and brush style.
Everything has been growing out of the flow and structure I gave for this little tile.
And it looks gorgeous.